What is an Aggravated DUI?

By: LawInfo

Some states have a more serious drunk driving charge often referred to as an aggravated DUI, also known as “extreme DUI” or “felony DUI”. It is important to note that not all states use the term DUI, but all states do have drunk driving laws.

An aggravated drunk driving charge can result from certain aggravating circumstances surrounding the incident that led to the charge. While a first drunk driving conviction is typically a misdemeanor under most states’ drunk driving laws, aggravated drunk driving constitutes a felony charge, which necessarily results in harsher punishments for drivers convicted of aggravated DUI.

Circumstances and Factors Considered in Aggravated Drunk Driving Charges

  • An extremely high blood alcohol level (BAC),
  • Driving with a BAC of 0.08 or more and a minor child is in the vehicle,
  • Driving a school bus while intoxicated,
  • Driving drunk within a school zone,
  • Serious injury or death occurs.

Once stopped for driving drunk, a person may face aggravated drunk driving charges if he or she:

  • Is caught driving without a valid driver’s license,
  • Caused another person to be seriously or fatally injured, or extensive property damage as a result of the incident,
  • Has had multiple drunk driving convictions, particularly within a certain timeframe.

A conviction for aggravated drunk driving can result in far more serious penalties than a regular drunk driving charge, which is typically a misdemeanor. Aggravated drunk driving is likely to be a felony charge in most cases, which places a permanent black mark on a person’s criminal record that may disqualify him or her for some jobs, among other things, such as:

  • Incarceration,
  • Community service,
  • Long probation terms
  • Substantial fines
  • Loss of license,
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device,
  • Vehicle confiscation.

Is aggravated DUI a felony or misdemeanor charge?

In many states, aggravated DUI is a felony rather than a misdemeanor charge, but this varies according to different states’ laws.

What are some common factors that will result in an aggravated rather than a regular DUI charge?

Circumstances surrounding the DUI, such as driving with an extremely high blood alcohol level (BAC), driving with a minor child in the vehicle, causing serious injury or property damage, or having multiple prior DUI convictions are all common scenarios that might lead to aggravated DUI charges.

Are the penalties for an aggravated DUI conviction harsher than for a regular DUI conviction?

Generally, yes. Typically, penalties for an aggravated DUI conviction will include higher fines, lengthier driver’s license suspension periods, a greater likelihood of required substance abuse assessment and/or treatment, and mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Will I be charged with aggravated DUI if my offense involved a child?

While the answer to this question varies according to state law, in many states, you may be charged with aggravated DUI if you had a minor child in the car with you at the time of your offense, if your actions caused serious bodily injury to a minor child, if you were operating while intoxicated in a school zone, or if you were driving a school bus while intoxicated.

How many DUI convictions can I have before I am charged with aggravated DUI?

The number of DUI convictions you can have before being charged with aggravated DUI depends on the law of the state in which you are charged.  In some states, two prior DUI convictions is enough to warrant a charge of aggravated DUI. In other states, you must have four or five prior DUI convictions before you can be charged with aggravated DUI.

Do all states have aggravated drunk driving laws?

No, but all states have laws or sentencing guidelines that can make a drunk driving conviction more severe. Plus, in response to the continuing trend of drinking and driving in the United States, many states are now passing some version of aggravated drunk driving laws, whether are called “aggravated”, “extreme”, or some other term that denotes a more serious offense.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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